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The Federalist: A Collection of Essays, written in favour of the new Constitution, as agreed upon by the Federal Convention, September 17, 1787
New York: Printed and sold by George F. Hopkins, 1802. 2 volumes, 8vo. (8 3/8 x 5 1/8 inches). viii,317,[1] pp. [with two pages numbered 167 and two pages numbered 168, as noted on the errata on verso of the vol I terminal text leaf, and with pp. 263-270 repeated]; v, [1], 351, [1] pp., with publisher's ad leaf bound following the Table of Contents and a printing of the Constitution and Bill of Rights on pp. 335-351. Expertly bound to style in period tree calf, covers bordered with a gilt fillet, flat spine in six compartments, red morocco lettering piece in the second, the others with a repeat decoration in gilt. Rare second edition of the most important work of American political thought ever written and according to Thomas Jefferson "the best commentary on the principles of government" - the first edition to identify Hamilton, Jay and Madison as the authors. The Federalist comprises the collected printing of the eighty-five seminal essays written in defense of the newly-drafted Constitution. The essays were first issued individually by Alexander Hamilton, James Madison and John Jay in New York newspapers under the pseudonym Publius to garner support for the ratification of the Constitution. This first collected edition was published in early 1788: volume I published in March, contains the first 36 numbers, volume II published in May, includes the remaining 49, together with the text of the Constitution. Upon its publication, George Washington noted to Alexander Hamilton that the work "will merit the Notice of Posterity; because in it are candidly and ably discussed the principles of freedom and the topics of government, which will always be interesting to mankind" (George Washington, letter to Hamilton, 28 August 1788). The genesis of this "classic exposition of the principles of republican government" (R.B. Bernstein, Are We to be a Nation? The Making of the Constitution, 1987, p.242) is to be found in the "great national discussion" which took place about the ratification of the Constitution, and the necessity of answering the salvos in print from the Anti- Federalists and other opponents of a strong Federal government. The original plan was for James Madison and John Jay to help Hamilton write a series of essays explaining the merits of their system, whilst also rebutting the arguments of its detractors. "Hamilton wrote the first piece in October 1787 on a sloop returning from Albany...he finished many pieces while the printer waited in a hall for the completed copy" (R. Brookhiser, Alexander Hamilton: American, 1999, pp.68-69). In the end, well over half of the 85 essays were written by Hamilton. Despite the intense time pressures under which the series was written "what began as a propaganda tract, aimed only at winning the election for delegates to New York's state ratifying convention, evolved into the classic commentary upon the American Federal system" (F. McDonald, Alexander Hamilton: A Biography, p.107). Styled the "revised and corrected" edition on the title, with additions to the first edition of 1788, Ford attributes editorship of this second edition to John Wells, though Sabin attributes it to William Coleman, noting it as "the last issued during Hamilton's life." The second edition is notable for the addition of the federal constitution and the first eleven amendments, and a series of articles written by Hamilton under the pseudonym "Pacificus," defending Washington's "Neutrality Proclamation" of 1793 regarding the Anglo-French war. It is arguably the most complete edition, and the only other English language edition issued in Hamilton's lifetime. Significantly, it identifies Hamilton, Jay, and Madison as the authors, but does not specify who wrote which essays; "it was at first intended to mark the numbers distinctly which were written by each; but considerations have since occurred which would perhaps render this measure improper." Clearly issued by Hamilton partisans, the preface implies that virtually all of it was Hamilton's work, and the republication of the Pacificus essays (written in opposition to Madison) confirms the Hamiltonian slant. The Federalist is without question the most important commentary on the Constitution, the most significant American contribution to political theory and among the most important of all American books. Ford 21; Howes H114, "aa." Cohen 2818; Sabin 23981; DAB VIII, pp.188-89 (for James Hamilton); Ron Chernow, Alexander Hamilton (New York, 2004), p.203 and passim.
      [Bookseller: Donald Heald Rare Books]
Last Found On: 2013-07-14           Check availability:      Biblio    

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